Test driving the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz

The Ciaz seems to have cracked the million buck code for Maruti Suzuki. Or has it?

It’s been a while since Maruti’s Honda City rivalling Ciaz made its debut in India. A few months and a minor recall later, the big sedan from India’s leading small car maker is going strong. It even topped the charts for its segment briefly. Although it’s still early days to call the Ciaz a big long-term success for Maruti, the notable initial reception proves that people are not averse to sparing a million bucks for a big Maruti car. But does it really have the refinement and the finesse that the expensive cars in its segment require? We find out.

Maruti Suzuki
Price: Rs 7.2 to 10.2 lakh ex-showroom

Design and appeal
The Ciaz, which looked sensational in the concept form, has been relentlessly watered down for the production trim. While the concept exuded attitude, the Ciaz rolling off the Maruti dealerships is an exponent of safe, inoffensive and clean design. The biggest USP of the Ciaz is its size, which is the largest in the segment, and will naturally appeal to the Indian car buyer who loves associating dimensions with value. The Honda City took the game a notch higher with its enormous size and Maruti Suzuki have responded soundly by making the Ciaz go a size up even on the City.

The dashboard is clean, minimalistic and classy. Materials used and workmanship is above satisfactory. PICS/AMIT CHHANGANI

The wide stance and the low roofline works towards adding some attitude to the Ciaz’s otherwise humble appearance. The angular, swept back headlamps taper inwards and feature some chrome detailing inside along with a projector unit. The front also features a wide central air dam with two connected faux side air vents with fog lamps housings flanking it.

In profile, the roofline, unlike most other cars in the segment, doesn’t drop towards the rear, liberating a decent amount of headroom for the rear passengers. Those 16-inch spoke wheels don’t look bad either.

The Bluetooth and call receive/reject buttons are placed behind the steering and require some getting used to
The Bluetooth and call receive/reject buttons are placed behind the steering and require some getting used to

At the rear, the Ciaz’s tail-lamps bear an uncanny resemblance to the City’s wide, angular tail lamps. It’d be tough to let it pass as mere coincidence, though those lamps are probably the most likeable components of the Ciaz’s design. For the average Joe who wants a practical, decent looking sedan for his family, the Ciaz fits the bill perfectly. It would impress most with its size, and doesn’t have any unlikeable oddities that would be frowned upon.

Rear A/C vents are available even in small cars and the Ciaz doesn’t omit the feature
Rear A/C vents are available even in small cars and the Ciaz doesn’t omit the feature

Engine and transmission
The Ciaz is presented with two engines — a 1.3-litre VGI turbo diesel and a 1.4 litre K14 engine, shared with the Ertiga, albeit in a different state of tune. Both engines come mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. The diesel engine, for a variety of reasons, is the natural pick of the two. Let’s discuss the performance of the two engines in detail.

Front central armrest also offers a small space underneath the flip-open lid
Front central armrest also offers a small space underneath the flip-open lid 

Let’s start with the diesel first. The 1.3-litre Fiat sourced VGT turbo assisted oil burner is a proven performer. On the Ciaz, it delivers 90 PS of peak power at 4,000 rpm. Performance wise, the more reassuring figure is the peak torque of 200Nm produced at 1,750 rpm. Though a proven performer, this engine has been known to have some turbo lag, and it is no different here. While there is some response 1,500 rpm onwards, the engine starts pulling with conviction only from around
2,000 rpm.

There isn’t anything to whine about, though on single carriageways and in stop-start city traffic you may have to shift down a cog a bit more frequently than you desire. The engine also gets a tad noisy post 3,500 rpm, but stays well within the boundaries of acceptability.

The 1.4 litre petrol engine appears to be a tad feeble for a car this size. The specs read 92PS @ 6,000 rpm and 130 Nm at 4,000 revs, which isn’t very impressive for this class of cars. Engines on the rival cars boast better figures. The response isn’t very strong below the 2,000 rpm mark. The engine also doesn’t rev very smoothly and there is some degree of coarseness to the noise it makes. From slow speeds the Ciaz in the petrol guise would take some time to build momentum unless you decide to shift down a cog or two.

Performance in the higher band of the rev range isn’t particularly strong either, and on open highways, with the car fully loaded with family and luggage, the small engine should show its limitations, especially when you wish to travel at a swift pace. Having said all that, it’s an engine you can live with without any major gripes, but it isn’t the kind of velvety smooth, responsive unit that makes you get behind the wheel at every opportunity.

Ride and handling
The Ciaz comes with 16-inch wheels, and during our test stint, loaded with 4 occupants the dampers felt mildly on the stiffer side. Overall, the Ciaz tackles the broken city roads well at slow speeds with one or two occupants, than when fully loaded. The ride improves with speed, though the overall composure at higher speeds isn’t as sorted as the European machines.

The Ciaz handles confidently for a family sedan, offering good straight-line stability and reassuring composure around bends as well. Sure there is some body roll, and some understeer too, but it’s all well within acceptable limits and shouldn’t be something to bother about, unless you want this car for sheer driving thrills. And you’d be looking the wrong way if you do.

Interior and features
The interior of the Ciaz is very neatly laid out. The two-tone, black-beige dash is split in two by wood inserts, which are a tad too dark for our liking. The fit-finish, materials used and the overall workmanship inside the cabin is above satisfactory, if not delightful.

Instrument console is rather simplistic — in a European fashion it employs black dials with white markings in a subtle font. Central screen on the instrument console includes a trip computer which offers very useful data, including stats related to fuel efficiency. The steering wheel is adjustable for rake and feels decent to hold, though it isn’t leather wrapped. Also, the mounted controls are stacked on only one side, with the audio related functions on the left spoke and Bluetooth/telephony controls mounted behind the hub between the left and the bottom spoke. They need to be pulled, unlike normal buttons which you push. The position of these buttons is a bit odd for intuitive use and may require some getting used to.

Seats are big and comfortable with ample thigh and back support up front. The seats at the rear could have done with a bit more thigh support though, especially knowing the extra leg-space the Ciaz has. Storage spaces come aplenty with both front door panels housing space for a big water bottle and documents. You get two cup holders ahead of the gear shifter, a small storage under the flip-open front armrest, good for a couple of cellphones or wallets, a glares holder and two cupholders in the rear central armrest.

The space at the back is astonishing. The Ciaz boasts the highest leg and shoulder room for the class and is an extremely comfortable car for the rear passengers. The backtrest has a comfortable angle and a flat floor spells even more convenience and space for the feet. The rear seats are not foldable, though. A rear A/C vent is the order of the day and the Ciaz does not skimp on the feature. On the top ZDI/ ZXI variants the features list is quite generous. The audio unit is equipped to operate with inputs from CD, USB, Aux, radio and Bluetooth. ABS and twin airbags are the two important safety items. Rear blinds come as a nice value add. Adjustable seat belts, dimmable RVMs, parking sensors, an RVM integrated rear view camera and electric folding ORVMs are a few other goodies. The cabin is well -insulated from ambient noise. A bit of road and tyre noise intrudes the cabin, though.

For someone looking for a value-for- money, spacious, decent-looking family car with loads of features, the Ciaz is almost a no-brainer. The petrol engine isn’t the most apt unit for a car this size, but should pass as a practical fuss-free unit. A big car, at a great price, with the dependable sales and service network of Maruti Suzuki backing it makes the Ciaz a compelling option in the segment.

Technical specs
Maruti suzuki Ciaz

Engine: 1,248cc turbo diesel / 1373cc petrol
Power: 90PS @ 4,000 rpm / 92.45PS @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 200 Nm @ 1,750 rpm / 130 Nm @ 4,000 rpm


Honda City

Honda City
Honda has led the C-segment for a substantial amount of time. The lack of a diesel option brought the sales of the previous gen car down. With the new generation City, Honda has made a strong comeback. The newest version of the popular nameplate looks great, has enormous space on the inside and is feature laden too. The 1.5-litre VTEC engine is still beyond compare. The newly developed 1.5-litre diesel engine, however, is a tad too noisy for some people’s liking. It’s the most tractable and fuel efficient of all its nemeses though.  
Expected price: Rs 7.5-Rs 11.5 lakh

VW Vento

VW Vento
For those who want a genuine German sedan for a humble R10 lakh, there is no looking beyond the Vento. Refined, handsome looks along with cutting edge tech for the segment makes the Vento a very appealing car for the connoisseurs. There’s a 1.2 litre turbocharged petrol and a 1.5 litre TDI turbo diesel to choose from. Both engines are good. The highlight, however, is the dual clutch DSG automatic which is leagues ahead of any other auto transmission in the segment. Service and maintenance of VW cars in India is relatively expensive though.
Price: Rs 7.6-Rs 11.2 lakh

Skoda Rapid

Skoda Rapid
The Rapid is essentially the Vento under the skin, so you get the impeccable German driving dynamics with this one as well. Sharing the cultivated proportions of the Vento, the Rapid looks great too. In the diesel version, it shares the engine and DSG transmission with the Vento, making it a fantastic option for its segment. The petrol engine on the car, however, is different. The Rapid features a 1.6-litre naturally aspirated engine, and doesn’t offer a DSG transmission. It’s a great buy nonetheless, though service and spares, just like its German cousin, are slightly more expensive.
Price: Rs 7.2-Rs 11 lakh

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